Money worries often cause sleepless nights – leading to over-eating, being too tired to exercise, and a vicious circle of feeling unable to cope. Most of us would like a bit more cash, but if you’ve realised that you “constantly feel anxious because I never have enough money”, make a firm decision now to do something about it.
Work out the figures: incomings and outgoings
If, like many people, you end the month broke and “can’t work out where the money goes”, it’s time to sit down with a calculator or spreadsheet and add up your incomings and outgoings. The more precise you can be, the better, but even getting a rough idea will help.
Record your income on a monthly basis (and your partner’s, if appropriate), then list all your regular outgoings, again, per month – rent or mortgage, bills, travel, groceries, magazine subscriptions and so on. Are the bills are higher than you thought (especially if you’ve been throwing away envelopes unopened)? Are you surprised what’s costing you the most?
Obviously, your income needs to match or exceed your spending. If your regular monthly outgoings don’t seem too bad, take a closer look at what you’re spending on a day-to-day basis…
Keep a spending diary
If you’ve been recording your food intake in a diary, you’ll probably have noticed how the simple act of writing down everything you eat makes you consider whether you really needed that mid-afternoon slab of chocolate cake.
A similar principle applies to money. Write down everything you buy, every day, for at least a week, and record how much it cost. That daily latte on the way to work could easily be costing you £10-£15 a week. A sandwich and packet of crisps every lunchtime might be another £15-£20. Perhaps that weekly night out with mates is clocking up well over £50 in drinks, food, transport and entrance fees to clubs.
(If, like me, you find it hard to keep track of your spending in the pub, count how much money’s in your wallet at the start of the evening, pay for everything in cash, then see what’s left at the end of the night.)
Identify areas where you could save money
Examine any expenditure which made you think “I spend how much on that?!” If you shop several times a week for fresh food, your total grocery bill could be higher than you realised: try having some meat-free meals, and buy anything with a long shelf life (rice, pasta, tinned foods) in bulk.
Having some money in a savings account will make you feel much more secure. Identify at least £100 that you can cut back on spending each month (taking a packed lunch to work every day could save a large chunk of that), and put that money into a separate bank account as soon as you receive your salary.
Get advice or help if you need it
If you’re in debt – maxed out on your credit card, unable to face opening envelopes, feeling sick when you think about your finances – then get some advice. For those in the UK, your Citizen’s Advice Bureau or local churches are good sources of help. Sometimes just admitting and accepting the situation you’re in, and talking to someone about it, can help you cope.
Websites with money-saving tips
There is a wealth of great advice online to help you spend less and save more, or to give you a better understanding of finance. You might like some of these:
- Dumb Little Man has lots of great advice, including career tips and money-saving ideas.
- Free Money Finance contains thousands of articles, covering everything from saving pennies on your groceries to becoming a millionaire.
- There are loads of sites for discount codes (which often appear in magazines or special promotions) — check before shopping to see if there’s any you can use for free. Try Discount Codes and Voucher Heaven if you’re in the UK.
(Image of coins by Jeff Belmonte)